Migraine—Child

Definition

Migraine is a type of recurring headache that involves blood vessels, nerves, and brain chemicals. Sensations called auras may come before a migraine. Auras can include visual changes or numbness and tingling. There are 2 types of migraines:
  • Migraine occurring with an aura
  • Migraine occurring without an aura
Migraine
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 Migraine headaches can affect a child’s performance in school, relationships with friends and family, and other factors in a child’s life.

Causes

The precise reason that a child is susceptible to migraines is unknown. Factors that may play a role include:
  • Genetics and environmental triggers
  • Changes in a nerve that serves as a major pain pathway
  • Imbalance in brain chemicals, like serotonin
Factors that can trigger a migraine include:
  • Physical exertion or too little physical activity
  • Too much sleep or too little sleep
  • Missing a meal
  • Motion sickness from traveling
  • Tiredness
  • Overuse of pain medications
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking
  • Certain foods such as chocolate, citrus fruits, dairy, processed meats, or fried foods
  • Certain environmental triggers such as flashing lights, odors, loud noises, or weather changes

Risk Factors

Migraines are more common in males. However, it is more common in females after puberty. The average age of onset is 7 years old (boys) and 10 years old (girls). Factors that increase your child’s chance of migraines may include:
  • Family history of migraines
  • Infantile colic

Symptoms

Migraines occur in phases that may include:

Warning

A warning may come before a migraine. In the hours or days before the headache, symptoms may include:
  • A change in mood
  • A change in behavior
  • A change in the level of activity
  • Fatigue
  • Yawning
  • Food craving or decreased appetite
  • Nausea, diarrhea
  • Sensitivity to light

Aura

The most common aura is visual. The aura lasts about 15-30 minutes. It may produce the following sensations:
  • Flashing lights, spots, or zig zag lines
  • Temporary partial loss of vision
  • Speech difficulties
  • Weakness in an arm or leg
  • Numbness or tingling in the face and hands

The Migraine Headache

Migraine pain starts within an hour of the aura ending. Symptoms include:
  • A headache (usually on one side but may involve both sides) that often feels:
    • Moderate or severe in intensity
    • Throbbing or pulsating
    • More severe with movement
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Lightheadedness

A Post-Headache Period

Migraines usually last from 4-72 hours. They often go away with sleep. After the headache, your child may experience:
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Sore muscles
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes

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